Have Modi And Sharif Taken To Back Channel Diplomacy For Talks?

Have Modi And Sharif Taken To Back Channel Diplomacy For Talks? Narendra Modi, Sajjan Jindal and Nawaz Sharif

In an interesting turn of events, Steel tycoon Naveen Jindal's brother Sajjan Jindal met Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday in an unannounced visit to Pakistan. According to the Hindustan Times, Jindal flew to Rawalpindi airport in a private aircraft and was received by Sharif’s son Hussain Nawaz. The meeting between the two took place in Murree, where Sharif had gone for a private trip.

Reports suggest Jindal has met Sharif in the past, once at the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) conference in Kathmandu. According to journalist Barkha Datt, Jindal had played an important role in organising a secret meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sharif on the sidelines of the SAARC Summit in Kathmandu in 2014. Hindustan Time’s report on this issue also claims that Jindal was in Lahore when Modi made a surprise trip to the Pakistani city while returning from Afghanistan to meet Sharif.

Therefore, that Jindal might be serving as a “covert bridge” between Modi and Sharif can’t be ruled out. While some reports in Pakistan media have claimed that Jindal’s visit was meant to deliver a ‘secret’ message to Sharif from Modi, others have speculated that the aim was to to arrange a meeting between the leaders on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in June.

The reaction in Pakistan to Jindal’s visit has been somewhat hostile, with the opposition demanding Sharif to reveal the agenda of the ‘secret’ meeting and media outlets branding Jindal’s visit to Murree as a violation of his visa which was restricted to Lahore and Islamabad.

However, Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz has refuted the claims, saying that their was noting secret about the meeting and that Jindal is Sharif’s ‘old friend’.

Meanwhile, speculations are rife about the involvement of Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence in leaking information about Jindal’s visit to Pakistani media. ISI and the Pakistan army have been blamed for scuttling opportunities of positive movement between the two nations in the past. Release of a confession video of Pakistan Taliban terrorist Ehsanullah Ehsan, in which he blames India’s RAW for terror activities in Pakistan, could have been done by the intelligence establishment to mould public opinion against a possible meeting between Modi and Sharif.